Last night was a big night in these parts. Our Parliament held the second reading for our Marriage Equality bill, which has now progressed through to the next stage by a convincing 77-44 majority. We were watching live on Parliament TV, along with many others, and it has been fantastic to be able to see the process in this way. While we didn’t agree with all the speeches, and some may have been difficult to hear, it was amazing to hear those in support sharing their stories and love. Some were predictable but some were downright surprising and it reminds me how much attitudes have changed.
Although we were fairly confident and hopeful before last night’s vote, it was nerve wracking waiting for the results and we were amazed and overjoyed when it finally came in. What I was not prepared for was how I felt about an hour later as I lay in bed trying to get to sleep.
I’m still excited and proud of our country, but I realized I suddenly feel like it’s too late to really make much difference to me personally. I love my “wife” and can’t wait until I can finally call her my wife legally, don’t get me wrong. I am looking forward to reaffirming our love and and legally marrying but while this is important to us now, it won’t really affect our daily lives. It’s just that this was something that I needed years ago. Like 13 years ago when I was struggling with my sexuality and what it meant to be ‘normal’. Or 12 years ago when my mother was devastated that my coming out would mean I would never marry or have children. Or 10 years ago after I proposed to K and then had to explain to close family and friends what that meant (I can’t remember how many times I was asked why we were having a wedding when it wasn’t legal, after all what was the point). Or 7 years ago when we were having our wills drawn up before a big overseas trip and the lawyers had to confer with head office on what language to use as they’d never dealt with a civil union before. Or 6 years ago when we first went to the fertility clinic and had to alter the paperwork to reflect our legal union as opposed to that of a de facto couple.
It is however something that I will be so proud to share with our son, as young as he is, so that he will grow up knowing that our family is no different in they eyes of a law than any other.
We were lucky, legally speaking, in that while we were planning our wedding our Parliament put forward, debated and passed the Civil Union Act 2004. This meant that we would be afforded very nearly the same rights as married couples, save for adoption, and was a huge fight and achievement at the time. There was no way that marriage equality would have progressed back then, so despite the fact that we believed it to be a second class answer, we also jumped on whatever we could to not only protect ourselves but also proclaim our love.
This time around, I have people expressing surprise that we’re not already married. I have family and friends expressing their whole hearted support, privately and publicly via facebook (and this is a big deal considering our family are notoriously bad talkers). It’s not all roses of course, there are plenty of people vehemently opposed to this idea, but the majority in our lives just don’t see it as a big deal at all. We have learned to stay away from comments sections of news websites, and then there is our relationship with K’s sister which has been unexpectedly damaged.
I know that our society was not ready for this any earlier, and I am so pleased that through sheer luck this member’s bill was pulled from the ballot last July. Without that, we would still be so far away, no major political party was going to step up anytime soon, despite the clear majority support in the House. I am also grateful to Obama, whose landmark support for Marriage Equality was a direct catalyst to this bill being drawn up. Our Prime Minister had already jumped on his coattails and indicated he felt the same (cynically you could say only because he wants to be Obama but I digress…). It was immediately clear that it would be an issue of conscience, not a party vote and so that high level support was a great start. In fact 8 out of 9 of our party leaders have supported this bill which is brilliant.
It’s still not quite over, the next step is the bill goes back before the whole house committee where every clause will be nit-picked and debated before the final bill is drawn up. There will then be a 3rd and final reading, and then it will go before the governor-general for royal assent. It is heartening though to know that a bill rarely falls at this last stage, so we are incredibly hopeful that this last bastion of legal discrimination will fall within a matter of weeks.
Of course the downside is we’re going to end up with 3 anniversaries – our first wedding anniversary on April 16, our civil union anniversary on April 29, and our legal wedding anniversary on……?